While there is no doubt that Georgia’s invasion of Ossetia was an insupportable act, Russia and Ossetia’s brazen claims of Georgian war crimes are the height of presumption. The hypocrisy of Russian-Ossetian histrionics is fully evident in this excellent N.Y. Times coverage:
…The Maryinsky Theater orchestra…also known as the Kirov…held a concert in Tskhinvali, which is largely in ruins.
The concert, dedicated to victims of the war, was held in front of the ruins of the South Ossetian Parliament. “We are here to remember those who died in the tragic days of aggression,” said Valery Gergiev, the conductor and artistic director of the Maryinsky Theater and the principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera…
Mr. Gergiev is Ossetian. He spoke and the orchestra played while Kekhvi, a Georgian village inside South Ossetia, burned on a ridge overlooking the town. Throughout the territory in and near South Ossetia, Georgian villages have been looted and many buildings were set on fire. In a few places, entire villages were burned.
All through the streets of Tskhinvali on Thursday, Ossetian men could be seen driving in cars without license plates, which suggested that they had been stolen during the wide-scale looting of Georgian villages that followed the war.
Together, the looting and the fires have chased away almost all of the Georgian population from South Ossetia and the territory reaching to the city of Gori, about 25 miles from Tskhinvali. The Georgian government has called this a program of “ethnic cleansing,” though Russia disputes that claim. Nevertheless, Mr. Kokoity [South Ossetia president] has said that Georgians will not be allowed to return.
I think what I object to most in this conflict and all such conflicts is that neither side cares about the position of the other. Each side sees itself as wholly right and the other side as wholly evil. If you cannot see the evil in yourselves and the bad acts of your side, then why should the world believe your claim that right and justice are on your side?
Also laughable are Russian military claims that they will withdraw their forces by Friday:
Russia gave conflicting signals on Thursday about whether it would withdraw its troops from Georgia by its self-imposed deadline of Friday…
The deputy head of the Russian general staff, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said at a news briefing in Moscow that the pullout would be completed on schedule. “The pullback of Russian forces is taking place at such a tempo that by the end of Aug. 22, they will be in the zones of responsibility of Russian peacekeepers…We talked about this date a week ago, and Russia sticks to its commitments in terms of deadlines.”
But the commander of the Russian ground forces, Gen. Vladimir Boldyrev, said that it would take at least 10 days for the troops and equipment to be withdrawn “in columns in the established order.”
The world has been waiting for the Russian bear to do so for long after it first promised it would withdraw. Its word, if it was ever trustworthy, is no longer. In fact, I find it entirely believable that Russia will permanently occupy entire swaths of Georgian territory claiming it needs such ground to form a defensive perimeter around Ossetia and Abkhazia. Then it will tell the world it has completed its “withdrawal” under its interpretation of agreements it has signed, and dare the world to say otherwise. That seems SOP for Russia. It’s going to be a long cold winter and I don’t think the bear will be hibernating anytime soon.